Pacific Gas & Electric and East Bay Community Energy announced last week that 400,000 Alameda County residential power customers will be charged based on when they use electricity beginning in May.

Under the Time-of-Use rate plan, customers will be charged more for usage during the peak demand hours of 4 to 9 p.m. Customers will be encouraged to shift some usage to times when demand is lower and renewable resources such as solar and wind power are considered most plentiful.

PG&E said customers affected by the transition began receiving notice by mail last month.

For the first 12 months, any customers who see their electric bills increase because of the change will receive an automatic credit for the difference. They also will have the option to switch back to a tiered rate.

“With TOU rates, customers have greater control over their electricity bills because they can shift energy usage away from peak hours,” said Nick Chaset, chief executive officer for East Bay Community Energy, a nonprofit agency that operates a renewable energy program for Alameda County and 11 cities.

“From our internal analysis of their usage history, a vast majority of our customers will financially benefit from TOU rates,” Chaset said, “and it creates better conditions for us to add more renewable energy facilities on the grid.”

EBCE serves more than 550,000 residential and commercial customers.

PG&E said the automatic transition to Time-of-Use rates would continue across the company’s service area through 2022. Customers enrolled in the Medical Baseline program will not be affected.

State law requires California investor-owned electric utilities to automatically transition customers to a TOU rate plan to promote a cleaner and more reliable energy grid.

PG&E began testing its TOU rate plan with about 150,000 residential customers in 2018 and says 80% of those customers stayed on the new plan for more than a year.

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